In California’s largest mass shooting this year, a gunman killed eight people at a San Jose light rail yard Wednesday morning before dying of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.
The gunman set his own house on fire before he drove to a Valley Transportation Authority union meeting and began shooting, law enforcement sources said.
He was identified by sources as Samuel Cassidy, 57, a maintenance worker at the VTA.
At a news briefing Wednesday afternoon, Gov Gavin Newsom said, “There is a sameness and a numbness to these incidents,” after meeting with family members of the victims, and asked when the shootings will stop. “What the hell’s going on in the United States of America? What the hell’s wrong with us? And when are we going to come to grips with this?” he said. “When are we going to put down our arms, literally and figuratively?”
As of mid-Wednesday, investigators believed there were still explosive devices at the VTA site, and light rail service has been suspended indefinitely.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said the building is remote and the area is cordoned off, so there is no immediate risk to the public.
“We received information that there are explosive devices that are located inside the building,” said Deputy Russell Davis of the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Department. “We activated our bomb squad, which is currently out on scene.”
Davis confirmed that the gunman was dead but did not elaborate on the cause of death. He did not say what type of gun was used.
Sources said the gunman is believed to have killed himself after the mass shooting.
Early indications are that the shooting was related to a workplace issue and that it did not involve riders of Santa Clara County’s light rail system, sources said.
At Cassidy’s beige stucco three-bedroom home on Angmar Court in San Jose, investigators discovered firearms and a large amount of ammunition, according to sources.
Officials with the San Jose Fire Department confirmed that there was a house fire on Angmar Court around 6:30 Wednesday morning. No injuries were reported.
Cassidy had worked at the light rail yard for at least eight years, according to public records.
According to a law enforcement source, Cassidy shot virtually everyone on the morning shift, including some he had worked with for years.
His ex-wife filed a restraining order against him in 2009, according to court records.
Neighbors knew him as a “very strange, very quiet” guy in his working-class neighborhood, said Ramon Crescini, 64, a retired general contractor who lives several doors down from the gunman.
Crescini said he woke up Wednesday morning to see black smoke billowing several doors down.
“The house was on fire,” he said, although fire crews prevented it from spreading very far.
Thang Lu, 57, said the streets have all been blocked off since early this morning.
“They blocked the whole thing,” he said. “A lot of crazy things are going on in San Jose. It is getting worse, not like the old days.”
San Jose Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Jeff Fielding said firefighters responded to a blaze at the gunman’s home at 6:36 a.m. No one was home.
Fielding said crews encountered “extremely heavy” flames but were able to bring the fire under control in under an hour. He said the fire “completely destroyed” the house and caused minor damage to a neighbor’s home.
At the shooting scene Wednesday, numerous officials from the FBI, San Jose city police and Santa Clara Sheriff’s milled about, with media kept at bay by yellow police tape strung around the parking lot for county employees. Authorities had also sealed off several nearby streets.
Calling it a “horrible tragedy,” VTA chairman Glenn Hendricks said the shooting happened in the light rail maintenance yard and not in the operations control center.
“I just want to say how proud I am of our VTA family,” he said. “The stress that they’re going through — the friends and family that they know — this has just been a terrible event for them.”
Two shooting victims were taken to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, hospital spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said. One was pronounced dead on arrival and the other is in critical condition.
The VTA shut down light rail service starting at noon today until further notice, the agency said on Twitter, with buses filling in some of the gaps.
“The light rail yard remains an active investigation scene, limiting our ability to provide service,” the agency said.
Officials said they received multiple 911 calls around 6:35 a.m. from witnesses who reported hearing shots ring out at the VTA rail yard on West Younger Avenue near downtown San Jose.
The rail yard is located in a cluster of public buildings, including the San Jose police department and Santa Clara sheriff’s department.
Both agencies responded quickly, and officers could still hear shots being fired when they neared the VTA railyard, according to Santa Clara Supervisor Cindy Chavez.
“Our hearts are pained for the families of those we have lost in this horrific shooting,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said on Twitter.
John Courtney, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union local 265, said on Facebook that he was shocked and deeply saddened by the news, and that the union — one of four representing VTA employees — was working to provide support and assistance to victims’ families and those impacted by the shooting.
A few blocks away, authorities set up a family reunification center in a county building, where Chavez and others met with families and employees, hugging each other and crying.
“I know that families are hurting. Families are still waiting to learn” about the fate of their loved ones, she said.
Kasey Halcon, director of victim services for the county district attorney, said 50 to 70 people had received assistance by mid-morning.
“There is a lot of grief and a lot of uncertainty. There is also a lot of community support,” she said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was in contact with local law enforcement and was monitoring the situation closely.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman said he was “in shock” from what happened. He has ordered flags to be lowered to half staff to honor the victims.
“I just want to remind everybody that these folks were heroes during COVID-19,” Chavez said. “The buses never stopped running, VTA didn’t stop running. They just kept at work. Now, we’re really calling on them to be heroes a second time — to survive this terrible, terrible tragedy.”
California’s deadliest so far this year, the mass shooting was the 231st in the United States this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines mass shootings as incidents in which four or more people — not including the assailant — are killed or injured.
In March, eight people were killed in a mass shooting at several Atlanta-area spas, and 10 were killed at a Boulder, Colo., supermarket.
In April, eight people were killed at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis.